Soma is undoubtedly not for the faint hearted; not that the new album from Windhand is vicious or openly destructive, but with a scintillating oppressive craft and an impossibly heavy intensity the six track, seventy plus minute leviathan of doom clad sludge pervasion is one of the most exhausting demanding presences heard this year. As extensively consuming as it is expansively involving, the debut release with Relapse Records from the Richmond, Virginia quintet is sheer downtuned, rock gaited drama and despite its merciless lumbering ravishing of the senses is as captivating and magnetic as it is thrilling suffocating.
To declare Soma epic is almost whimsical, the mountainous riff rugged terrain going beyond that description to thrust the senses and imagination into an unventilated stuffy swamp of corrosively persuasive intensive sonic fog. The five piece of vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarists Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris, bassist Parker Chandler, and drummer Ryan Wolfe pregnate the senses immediately with an antagonistic slowly pervading riff from the first second of opener Orchard. The lone intrusion is soon joined by further grizzled guitar and barbed rhythms guided by the same intent, the forestry of sonic scenery and immersive atmosphere soon a tight restrictive smog around the ear and thoughts. The almost mystical haunting tones of Cottrell offers light, an escape from the intense ambience though it is a deceptive lure leading the listener into a maze of acidic melodies and guitar enterprise. Evocative and controlling the track is a magnetic call on the passions, a seemingly instinctive response in return embracing its fearsome muscular offering.
The following Woodbine soon engages a melodic and harmonic mist within its persuasive occultist like overwhelming breath, a psychedelic glow shimmering off of the tar thick energy infiltrating every pore and thought. Like its predecessor the song seems to go on and on in height and depth, the Sabbath inspired riff tanked absorption of the imagination an ever widening pull through an air sucking, senses flooding tide of fuzz lined malevolence. Its successor Feral Bones is much the same but with an even more predacious labouring rabidity which chews and swallows thoughts and emotions into its terrifying dark underbelly of again drone driven animosity, though once more the vocals of Cottrell offer a line of comfort even if soaked in sinister intrigue.
From distinctly different songs but ones with a mutual surface intent and feel, Evergreen steps forward next to provide ‘an eye of the storm’ moment. Predominantly acoustic guitar walking alongside wonderful vocals and harmonies in a tender ambience, the song is a folk autumn breeze but one which is no stranger to the shadows and darkened air which skirt its beauty from first to last evocative note and syllable.
Cassock soon preys on the calm with a terrific sonically snarling temptation evolving into a leg staggering thunderstorm of electrified sonic scythes and mountainous cascading beats prowled from within by sinew heavy, riveting ferocious riffs. Like being chewed alive by a tsunami of ravenous intensive jaws whilst fallen angels serenade the wounds, the track is a magnetic triumph which impales the passions upon its rhythmic shards and sonic spires.
The closing Boleskine is a thirty minute colossal journey all on its own within the album. An acoustic start deceptively draws in the senses and mind before once fully engaged they succumb to a blood chilling doom soundscape of severe and stressful provocation entwined with seducing melodic mastery and the ever lingering almost ghostly vocal presence of Cottrell. Ever evolving with drone spawned intensity and folk sparked elegance repeating their persuasions amidst ever changing and senses suffering imagination, the track is a long winding fall through aural purgatory and thoroughly absorbing and thrilling, if debatably over long by the time it leaves its Siberian like winter on the ear.
Soma is simply an outstanding confrontation which needs and offers numerous excursions through its edacious depths to explore all of its startling textures and depths. Windhand has created a suffering which may in time go down as an important doom metal release; certainly in the now it will feature on the end of year passions of so many.
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